Ocean Surface Winds Team Flight Experiment Program
The Ocean Winds flight experiment program uses the NOAA WP-3D aircraft to obtain measurements of the ocean surface in a variety of environmental conditions, with a focus on extreme wind events. This involves flying through Atlantic and Eastern Pacific tropical cyclones during hurricane season, and extratropical cyclones in the North Atlantic and North Pacific during the winter. The primary instruments used in the experiments are the IWRAP profiler/scatterometer, the Stepped Frequency Microwave Radiometer (SFMR), and expendables launched from the aircraft (i.e., GPS dropsondes and AXBTs). The primary objectives of this program are to calibrate and validate ocean surface remote-sensing products and techniques in the storm environment, explore new remote-sensing instrument capabilities, and improve our knowledge of the physics at the air-sea interface.
In January and February, the STAR Ocean Surface Winds Team deploys one of the NOAA WP-3D aircraft to a coastal location in the Northern hemisphere near the historical tracks of winter extratropical cyclones. These storms are particularly useful because they typically lack precipitation while still producing hurricane-force winds over large areas, which eliminates some variability in the ocean-surface wind measurements found in tropical cyclones. Past deployment locations include Alaska; Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, Canada; and Ireland. There are usually 6-10 flights during one of these experiments, but they vary due to storm distance, speed, and specific experiment objectives. Some recent objectives include improving the understanding of scatterometer and radiometer behavior with respect to incidence angle, investigating the utility of cross-polarization scatterometry for high-wind retrieval, and satellite retrieval validation. For results from selected experiments, see the Research page.